From the Director

Rex

 

 

 
by Rex Parker, Phd director@princetonastronomy.org

October 9 Meeting – “It’s Elemental, My Dear Watson”! Hope to see you at Peyton Hall auditorium on the Princeton Campus for our next meeting (Tuesday, Oct 9 at 7:30pm). Please see Ira’s article in this edition for information about the guest speaker, Dr Jack Hughes, Rutgers Dept of Physics and Astronomy. Over the years I’ve always been fascinated by a Big Question: How did the elements form? How did we go from just Hydrogen and Helium from the Big Bang to the 92 natural elements – those we all learned in the periodic table, those that form the basis for all of planetary geology and the origins of life? How does stellar nucleosynthesis work? The answers to these may not come easy, but astrophysics does have answers. On Tuesday night, thanks to Dr Hughes, for the first time in AAAP we’ll take a deep dive into nucleosynthesis; no exam afterwards :> .

Astronomy, Tides, and Hurricanes. Earth is a blue marble rolling through the heavens, shaped by astronomical forces that profoundly affect the course of human life. When hurricane Florence struck North Carolina last month, the flooding and damage along the coast was astronomical in multiple meanings of the term. NOAA defines storm tide as the coastal water level rise during a storm due to the combination of storm surge and astronomical tide. The surge is highest where the strongest winds of a hurricane occur, in this case the northeast quadrant as the eye made landfall. But the magnitude of the inland surge also depends on the astronomical tide.

Tides result from the combined gravitational force of the moon and the sun on the fluid outer layer of the blue marble. Lunar gravity pulls the oceans about twice as strongly as the sun – the sun’s gravity is moderated by distance. If earth had no large continents then all areas would see two high and two low tides every lunar day (approx. 24 hr, 50 min). But as the earth rotates the westerly passage of the bulge of seawater is blocked by the continents, making the pattern of tides complex within each ocean basin. Diurnal tide cycles exhibit one high and one low tide every lunar day, e.g., in the Gulf of Mexico. Most of the U.S. east coast has a semidiurnal tide cycle with two high and two low tides of similar size every lunar day (Figure below; also see https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/tutorial_tides/tides07_cycles.html). The U.S. west coast has a mixed semidiurnal cycle with two high and two low tides of different size every lunar day.

Since hurricane Florence was so slow-moving as it made landfall in North Carolina, the storm surge was integrated across multiple tide cycles over more than a day. The multiple astronomical high tides during that period added several feet of depth to the surging seawater and contributed to the flood scenario as the storm surge approached 10 ft and higher along the Carolina coast.

Opportunity for Members to Visit Home Observatories. Some members have expressed a curiosity about astrophotography, how it is done, and especially how the hardware is set up. In addition to using the club’s facility at Washington Crossing, many of us have thought about building a home astronomical observatory. There are many potential designs ranging from basic pedestal/mount installations with weather covers, to aluminum or fiberglass/plastic domes, to roll-off roof designs. I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to create a home observatory in my back yard, which is now operating hands-on and can be run remotely through automation software. I would like to invite interested members to visit and see firsthand one approach to the issues of telescope, mount, and camera hardware, software and observatory design. Please send me a note (send e-mail to ) if you would like to join a small group tour of this observatory in the near future. Once I hear from you, we can arrange a date(s).

Advertisements
Posted in October 2018, Sidereal Times | Tagged , | Leave a comment

From the Program Chair

By Ira Polans

The October AAAP meeting is on the 9th at 7:30PM in Peyton Hall on the Princeton University campus. The talk is on the “Stellar Nucleosynthesis” by Dr. Jack Hughes, Rutgers University.

Dr. Hughes will focus on the basics of stellar nucleosynthesis and will finish up with more recent research topics. Dr. Hughes will discuss hydrogen-burning on the main sequence, helium burning and hydrogen shell burning on the red giant branch, and then, in stars of >8 solar masses, and later stages of burning ending up with iron. Also, briefly mentioned is Big Bang nucleosynthesis since it sets the stage for the rest of the story. Dr. Hughes, will also briefly cover supernova explosions, which are (mostly) how the metals produced in stars get into the interstellar medium and the extra boost they give to nucleosynthesis. Time permitting, Dr. Hughes will talk about the role of high energy astrophysics in the continuing evolution of our understanding of the origin of the chemical elements in the universe, such as studies of Fe-group elements in type Ia supernovae and the role of recent multi-messenger observations of neutron star mergers.

The talk looks very interesting and will cover a lot of ground!!

Prior to the meeting there will be a meet-the-speaker dinner at 6PM at Winberie’s in Palmer Square. If you’re interested in attending please contact no later than Noon on October 9.

Parking is available opposite Peyton Hall.

We’re looking forward to seeing you at the meeting!

Posted in October 2018, Sidereal Times | Tagged , | Leave a comment

September 2018 Meeting Minutes

by Jim Poinsett

Minutes of the September 2018 Meeting of the AAAP

  • The meeting was called to order after the lecture. The first topic was StarQuest 2018. It will be held on October 5th through 7th at the Hope Conference Center in Hope NJ. The cost is $40 per night.
  • Membership renewal is due now. You can send in a check or make payment on our website through PayPal.
  • The American Astronomical Society (AAS) is now accepting Amateur Affiliate Memberships. The AAAP is an affiliated organization. Membership is $50, e-journals are available for an additional $25.
  • 2019 Astronomy calendars are available, $10 speak to Larry.
  • There are problems with the TeamViewer service at the observatory. Many users are being kicked off. TeamViewer is cracking down on home use vs. professional use.
  • The was an article in the NY Times on Sunday September 9th about travel to dark sky locations.
  • The NJ Astronomical Association is hosting an open house and flea market. Check their website (NJAA.ORG) for details.
  • There is an astrophotography workshop at the Tupper Lake Observatory in late October.
  • The club is considering a field trip to the Air and Space museum at Dulles. Either early December or early next year are times being considered.
  • The NJ State Planetarium is having a “Choosing Your First Telescope” presentation on November 24th. They are looking for members to set up their scopes and answer questions for visitors.

Meeting adjourned

Posted in October 2018, Sidereal Times | Tagged , | Leave a comment

September, 2018 Board Meeting Minutes

by Jim Poinsett

Minutes of the September 2018 Board Meeting of the AAAP

  • There was a discussion about StarQuest and the fact that it loses money every year. Should we keep having it or cancel it. The board decided to keep it and raise prices to cover the cost, $40 per night, per person. No discount for campers, students would only be $25. Email intent forms to observatory@princetonastronomy.org
  • Rules were drawn up for requesting a star gazing event and will be placed on the website. The website will be modified to make it easier to find the requesting information.
  • It was suggested that the AAAP twitter feed be embedded on the website. The suggestion will be passed on to Surabhi.
  • The board discussed Meet-Up and decided to continue it’s use and to monitor statistics to determine it’s usefulness.
  • The topic of reaching out to new members was discussed, basically how are we doing? The new members interested in outreach are contacted by Gene and those interested in the observatory are contacted by Dave. Gene is getting good response, Dave’s results are hard to determine.
  • There will be a new member “Meet and Greet” during the break between the lecture and the business meeting.
  • The meeting programs are being set. The 10 minute member talk needs to be kept to 10 minutes so as to not make the guest lecturer run late.
  • Field trip possibilities were discussed. Two places of interest are the Air and Space Museum in Dulles in December or early next year and Cherry Springs in the Spring or Summer of 2019.
  • The Mewlon and the Refractor need better alignment. The new cameras are working well with no complaints.
  • Larry will handle the Astronomy Calendars this year.
  • AAS memberships are now available to amateurs.
  • A memorial plaque is being made to honor Gene Ramsey.

Meeting adjourned.

Posted in October 2018, Sidereal Times | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

In Memoriam: Dick Peery

by John Church

In Memoriam: Dick Peery

Richard D. “Dick” Peery, former Director of the AAAP, passed away on April 3, 2017 at age 75. He held bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Rutgers University and was the former Director of the New Jersey State Museum Planetarium in Trenton, where he worked for 35 years. I knew Dick well, and I offer this in his memory and in gratitude for his many contributions to the AAAP.

The first reliable record that I have about Dick and the AAAP was when he volunteered to be a member of the new observatory committee at our tenth anniversary dinner on November 13, 1972. Ironically enough, at our first committee meeting two weeks later, we eliminated Washington Crossing State Park as a possible site for our projected observatory. Later on, however, as chair of the observatory committee, Dick facilitated negotiations with the NJ Department of Environmental Protection that allowed us to lease the site near the Nature Center where our observatory now stands. The lease was finalized in early 1977 and approved by the AAAP membership at the February meeting.

Dick was elected AAAP Director in May, 1975. His future wife and future Director Roxanne Tobin, who as editor named our newsletter “Sidereal Times,” was re-elected Secretary. Several of us, including Dick and Roxanne, scouted various locations in Hopewell Township and environs earlier, looking for a suitable observatory site, but had come up empty. Without Dick’s creative help with the Washington Crossing site, we might still be looking for a home.

Speaking of Roxanne, I recall her frustration at perpetually cloudy skies such as those we have been enduring for most of this past summer. She usually wrote a monthly column called “Roaming the Skies,” but in 1973 she wrote one called “Roaming the Clouds” with a map and objects such as Dubheious, Vague, Denebulus, Ridiculous, and Beta Cumulonimbus.

We broke ground for the observatory in April 1977. Dick is in the hooded sweatshirt, our crew chief Bill Phillips is on the left, and I’m in the trench.

Groundbreaking was the easy part. Little did we know that we would soon be hitting shale and large rocks. With no funds for power equipment, many pitched in with shovels and pickaxes. The future location for the refractor pier is indicated by a stick, and some dirt has already been removed where the north pier would be.

The photo below, taken two months later and in much better weather, shows the concrete foundation being poured. Dick is at center in the beige shirt. The young “superintendent” is my son Fred and I’m in the red shirt. Bill Phillips is in the blue shirt and standing behind him is future Director Kurt Goepfert. Treasurer and future Director Leith Holloway is in the green shirt. Tireless star party organizer Mike Clark is at right.

Roxanne passed away in 2001. The last time I remember seeing her and Dick was at the planetarium many years ago when Dick was giving our traditional June show. I remember how proud he was for the part he had played in getting the fine Minolta projector that is still there and is occasionally used for demonstrations. It’s now been superseded by a digitized projection system that not only shows the skies, but also gives other major presentations for the public.

The mutually beneficial relationship that the planetarium and AAAP still enjoy would not have happened without Dick’s hard work and contributions over many years. We are in his debt.

Posted in October 2018, Sidereal Times | Tagged | Leave a comment

Planetary Protection

by Theodore R. Frimet

Planetary Protection

and then there were none

There are some pretty cool things that come into your email inbox, from time to time. And September 24th was no exception. Hailing from The National Academies of Science Engineering Medicine, I am alerted to the latest publication. Prima facie my chosen topic preference appears to now be available by purchase, or free PDF download. Enter Review and Assessment of Planetary Protection Policy Development Processes. And of course, I am giddy with happiness as I download the free PDF. To learn more, please visit nap.edu

There are historical and modern approaches to planetary protection, and I would be happy to touch upon a few salient points. But first, let me break the hearts of all Amateurs, and Professional’s alike. Planetary Protection is not about Space Force, or destroying minor planets or asteroids before Earth doomsday impacts. It is more akin to making sure that as we explore our outer worlds, that we do not bring Earth bound contaminants with us. How unhappy would we be, if first contact with biological trace on Mars, was due to human or Earth centric fauna and flora?

Further, let us couple the Drake Equation and an old movie favorite of mine, The Andromeda Strain, to over-reach and acknowledge the burden of knowing that “we are not alone”. Let us not accidentally become in contact with a life form, no matter how minor the xtra-terrestrial beasty might be – as it will have an impact on Earth’s ecology. At the least, it will muddle up the science of exobiology. However, with human beings and our agricultural vertebrates leaving only 5% to the remaining 5,000 vertebrate species on Earth, I fear for very little. If we pay lip service to Planetary Protection, truly Water Bears and the Class Insecta will become the dominant life form.

In 1967 an Outer Space Treaty (OST) was kindled by international and federal law. We have all been blessed, that for the last 50 years, that we have had something in common with the rest of our planet. Outer Space. Not to be outdone, we also have The Committee of Space Research, also known as COSPAR. Whose guidance, it tuns out, is not binding under the OST. Nutz!

I initially stumbled upon COSPAR when I was researching my ECHO I plates. By the by – I continue to be in a holding pattern for the archival process to be written and and accepted by the curator at the Smithsonian. Truly, this is nothing to be taken lightly – as acceptance of historical photographic plates of our first transnational satellite communication system takes lodes of time to digest and ponder. Come on, ‘M’ – I will make the trip to Washington myself!

Ok, let’s get back on track with the good stuff. Everyone is excited about visiting Europa and deep sea diving. And yet, to fast track any off world surf and turf would require stringent methodology to protect the waters of life, well…from life itself. Keeping with the times, we have known since the 1990’s that water wasn’t limited to the boundaries of Earth. Regardless if it is NASA or COSPAR, we Amateur Astronomers must stay abreast of nascent developments. It is incumbent upon us all, to weigh in on the politics of the day, and make sure that we do not stick our biological noses into thriving or developing exo-zoological systems.

Mars. So close this time of year, and yet my shrubs have grown so high that a vista to the South is blocked. Coupled with the many clouded days of yore, I wept silently into many a night. I turn my tears into powerful ascertainment that today is the day that I trim the verge. Where were we? Ah, yes. Mars. A visit to the below web page, hosted by NASA, and brought to our attention by page 32 of the National Academy of Sciences document (ibid) is a welcome sight!

https://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/about/history/50thgallery/1975-01-07.html shows us the container used for the Viking Lander I. After sterilization, that is dry baking at over 111 degrees Celcius for 30 hours, the probes were sealed in a protective bioshell. The bioshell is a poster child for planetary protection policy. Due to budget limitations, and a broad spread of vendors that produce parts and crafts, what was orchestrated by NASA, in the day, is difficult for me to envision as being practical for today’s science exploration. Further reading into policy is not for the feint of heart. However, given the logistics of modern space exploration, new avenues of planetary protection are to be explored, and utilized. Cue the Amateur. Wink. Wink. Nod. Nod.

Let us touch upon orbital debris, for a moment. It wasn’t until the time of President Ronald Reagan, circa 1988, when policy was first mentioned to minimize the creation of space junk. We continue to design methods to define the environment, and limit the growth of nuts and bolts in space. There are international dialogues and inter-agency co-operations that help assess debris impact, before missions ever take flight. Discussion over the years, led to the creation of the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) in 1993 (ibid p113). As an aside, high level cooperative discussions and decision making are sent to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Use of Outer Space (COPUOS). From there, the UN General Assembly makes the guidelines. On December 22, 2007, the UN adopted mitigation guidelines under resolution 62/217. Here is the web link below,last accessed Saturday, September 29, 2018 at 9:35 AM EST: http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/62/217

And Then There Were None. Yes, I prefaced Elon Musks’ car launch of a Tesla into space with the title of Agatha Christie’s most difficult novel for her to write, ever. I feel her pain, as I finish laying my golden egg, and soon to bid you adieu.

Good job, Elon. Nice way to contaminate and avoid Planetary Protection policy and guidelines. Wait a minute? Did he actually violate any law or guideline? Turns out Mr. Musk and SpaceX are within perfect bounds. The Falcon Nine Heavy launch of February 6, 2018, according to the below weblink, referencing Appendix H of the National Academies Report on Planetary Protection, last accessed Thursday, October 4, 2018, 10:21 PM EST:

https://www.nap.edu/read/25172/chapter/17

reads that “the payload and trajectory were only generally defined with no direct reference to a Mars-targeted orbit” back in August 2017, when NASA responded to the FAA’s launch license. NASA calculated limited trajectories for the Tesla Roadster, and “was not in a position to confirm the probability of an impact on Mars”, and it is given that Mr. Musk did not include plans for a fly-by, orbiter or lander for a target body. The FAA launch license was consistent with Mr. Musks’ Twitter feed. And, “a spacecraft not encountering another planetary body is not subject to NASA or COSPAR planetary protection policy”.

My gut instinct is to make a call for further planetary protection, however I do not care for intrusive policies that limit the imagination and outreach of scientists, both Amateur and Professional. Or, to turn a page to the home World of Superman. If Jor-El listened to his council, we would never have had six great full feature films to watch. May it be fortuitous that we have not less than five more launches for good measure! Please, though, remember to keep your seats and trays in the up-right position, at all times!!

Posted in October 2018, Sidereal Times | Tagged | Leave a comment

‘Interstellar Visitor ‘Oumuamua Came From 1 of 4 Nearby Stars

by Ashwani Saxena

‘Interstellar Visitor ‘Oumuamua Came From 1 of 4 Nearby Stars

link :
https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/277808-interstellar-visitor-oumuamua-came-from-1-of-4-nearby-stars

Posted in October 2018, Sidereal Times | Tagged | Leave a comment

Pioneers in understanding our Universe

by Prasad Ganti

Pioneers in understanding our Universe

Bell Labs was the research arm of the telephone company AT&T. In the telecommunication business, the scientists got to experiment with different radio antennas. And as an act of serendipity, came up with two of the most significant discoveries in astronomy and cosmology in the twentieth century. I was curious about finding the relics of these two accidental discoveries and went on a trip, about an hour’s drive from my home to find these historic antennas.

Going in chronological order, first pioneer is Karl Jansky who during the 1930s while testing his radio antenna, discovered radio waves coming from space. Till then, radio waves only came from terrestrial radio or TV stations. Or other radio transmitters on the ground. Getting waves from outside was really an abnormality. Jansky found that the radio waves were coming from the center of the Milky Way, from the direction of the Sagittarius constellation. Jansky published his work but no one paid much attention to it. Jansky died young in his 40s. After the second world war, scientists in US, Europe and Australia started building radio antennas and receivers to receive signals from outer space.

The field of radio astronomy grew since the 1950s and Jansky was recognized after his death. A unit called Jansky (amount of radio signal in watts received per square meter per Hertz) has been named in his honor. Today, radio astronomy is as important as optical astronomy using telescopes. By tapping signals from radio, microwave, infrared, visible light, ultraviolet, gamma rays, x-rays, leading to multi-messenger astronomy, lot of our Universe has been discovered and confirmed. After all, objects in our Universe do not transmit signals which are more convenient for some humans in a distant part of a distant galaxy to see with their eyes or their telescopes. Our telescopes needed redefinition, and that happened courtesy Jansky.

I found by searching the internet where the Jansky antenna is. The original antenna unfortunately is not there any more. A replica has been built and installed in Green Bank in West Virginia, where major radio telescopes are stationed. I hope to visit Green Bank someday. However, a monument is there in 101, Crawfords Corner Road in Holmdel, New Jersey. I tracked down the place. The address points to a building which is a modern day research lab. There are two concentric roads around the building. It is not easy to find the monument. I kept driving on the concentric roads a few times and then located the monument in between the two circular roads. It looks more like a bicycle stand, but I do respect monument as a shrine to Radio astronomy. Given below are three pictures taken using my iPad pro.

Next discovery came in the 1960s. Two scientists Arno Penzias and Bob Wilson were testing a horn antenna, which is used in transmission and reception of signals involving microwaves. They found some noise coming into the receiver. They thought it is related to some ground based sources, or due to some dust and bird droppings. All the cleaning was done, the antenna rotated in all directions. Yet the same noise persisted. This is the same noise we see on our TV set when a station is not transmitting any signal on a given channel. Those black and white dots with a hissing noise is what Penzias and Wilson received. Word spread about this discovery.

At the same time in nearby Princeton University, some scientists have speculated the existence of Cosmic Microwave Background radiation (CMB) in support of the big bang theory which explains the formation of our Universe about thirteen billion years ago. Penzias and Wilson met the Princeton team and the discovery was confirmed. This background noise is the leftover from the creation of the Universe. The oldest relic from the birth of our Universe. Since then, three satellites have been launched to study and confirm the theory. Penzias and Wilson were honored with the Nobel prize in Physics in 1978. The discovery of CMB certainly led to a revolution in cosmology, in our understanding of our Universe.

Fortunately, the original antenna is still there and enshrined at 791 Holmdel Road in Holmdel, New Jersey. I visited the historic site and given below is the picture taken with my iPad pro.

These monuments are certainly milestones in the human quest to picturize our Universe. And I am glad that they exist to inspire the posterity.

Posted in October 2018, Sidereal Times | Tagged | Leave a comment